Why Business Focus Is a Crucial Entrepreneurial Talent
Business Journal

Why Business Focus Is a Crucial Entrepreneurial Talent

by Sangeeta Bharadwaj Badal, Ph.D.

Successful entrepreneurs are profit-oriented and judge the value of decisions and relationships by their effect on business

A word of caution: In your drive to maximize profits, you can sometimes lose sight of your customers.

Highly successful entrepreneurs are fascinated by numbers and money. If you have high Business Focus, making money is your primary objective.

As an entrepreneur with high Business Focus, you have sharp business instincts, and you use them to price products or services to guarantee a profit on each sale. Consistent with your emphasis on money, you run a tight ship, keeping a close check on operational costs. You make all decisions, big and small, with cost in mind and evaluate your decisions through the prism of profitability. You constantly ask yourself, "How will this affect my bottom line?" Your focus on running the business efficiently makes you impatient with unnecessary costs caused by delays, detours, or obstacles.

Your attitude toward data reflects your penchant for numbers. Your high Business Focus gives you an uncanny ability to look at the same data that your managers, co-founders, or employees have review and come up with unique insights that they may have missed. Numbers are your lifeline. From weekly target meetings to monthly tracks to quarterly company reviews, numbers are the topic of discussion. Not only do you relentlessly measure all aspects of the business, you know how each number is derived and what day-to-day team member actions affect these numbers.Entrepreneurial StrengthsFinder Order Now

As a business-focused entrepreneur, you also have a long-term view of the enterprise. With a futuristic outlook, you energize yourself and your team members by painting your vision of what the company will be like months and years from now -- and you do it often. Even though monthly and quarterly scrutiny is important, you are focused on the long-term drivers of success and invest a lot of time planning for this future state. You set targets -- financial and non-financial -- for the month, quarter, year, and decade. Once you have set the targets, you innately understand what steps to take and what levers to pull to achieve them. Then you continuously monitor and measure the results, benchmarking them against the best in the industry. This gives you an objective view of how well the company is doing.

You don't stop with just setting and monitoring goals. You move on to the most critical step: getting your team on board and helping each team member understand how his or her daily actions drive the numbers. As a profit-oriented entrepreneur, you instinctively know how to align employee responsibilities with company goals by finding the right job fit for each employee. And you align each employee's responsibilities with his or her innate talents so each individual can bring his or her best self to the job every day.

A word of caution for entrepreneurs with high Business Focus: In your drive to maximize profits, you can sometimes lose sight of your customers. Remember to make customer orientation part of your business philosophy. Encourage your team to focus on increasing customer satisfaction along with the push to maximize revenues.

In addition, be cognizant of your team members' morale. A relentless focus on profitability and a competitive cost culture puts immense pressure on employees to maintain the highest levels of performance. Communicate your vision of the future clearly and often to keep the troops energized and morale high.

Along the same lines, never let your employees forget that you value their hard work. Recognizing them for their contributions, big and small, builds loyalty and commitment to the company, pushing them to perform at higher levels. Engaged employees' energy and effort will pull the company through tough times.

Business Focus in Action

Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway: "Whenever I read about some company undertaking a cost-cutting program, I know it's not a company that really knows what costs are all about. Spurts don't work in this area. The really good manager does not wake up in the morning and say, 'This is the day I'm going to cut costs,' any more than he wakes up and decides to practice breathing."

Larry Page, CEO of Google Inc.: "Our goal is long-term growth in revenue and absolute profit -- so we invest aggressively in future innovation while tightly managing our short-term costs."

Bill Gates, business magnate, philanthropist, and inventor: "Warren (Buffett) and I have the most fun when we're taking the same data that everybody else has and coming up with new ways of looking at them that are both novel and, in a sense, obvious. Each of us tries to do this all the time for our respective companies, but it's particularly enjoyable and stimulating to discuss these insights with each other."

Maximizing Your Business Focus Talent

  1. Use specific timelines and yardsticks to measure your business goals. Applying precise measures will help you track the numbers and gauge how well your business is moving toward your goals.
  2. Manage your time carefully. As an entrepreneur, there are many demands on your time. Make a list of well-defined initiatives that require your full attention. Reject proposals that don't further your business and financial goals.
  3. Write down your vision for the short term and long term, and refer to it often. Putting your vision in writing and revisiting it regularly will keep you feeling in control and on track.
  4. Communicate your short-term and long-term goals consistently to your employees and clients. Create a vivid road map for them to follow. Outline your strategies, and include examples, stories, action plans, and mock-ups. Help others see the future along with you. Your employees and customers must be able to see the company through your eyes. It will help them stay emotionally engaged. Work with them to define that future.
  5. Don't lose sight of the human element in business. Your decisions and your extreme focus on profitability affect your employees and customers. Remember that you are working with people and not just spreadsheets and data.
  6. To help you set realistic business goals, learn everything you can about all aspects of your business. Read trade journals, industry-specific publications, and technological breakthroughs related to your business. Talk to experts in your area.

The 10 Talents of Successful Entrepreneurs

When Gallup studied entrepreneurial talent, we found a tremendous variety of behaviors among successful entrepreneurs. But after analyzing the data and listening to hours of interviews, we distilled everything down to a list of 10 talents that influence behaviors and best explain success in an entrepreneurial role. Every entrepreneur uses some mix of these 10 talents to start or grow a business:

  • Business Focus: You make decisions based on observed or anticipated effect on profit.
  • Confidence: You accurately know yourself and understand others.
  • Creative Thinker: You exhibit creativity in taking an existing idea or product and turning it into something better.
  • Delegator: You recognize that you cannot do everything and are willing to contemplate a shift in style and control.
  • Determination: You persevere through difficult, even seemingly insurmountable, obstacles.
  • Independent: You are prepared to do whatever needs to be done to build a successful venture.
  • Knowledge-Seeker: You constantly search for information that is relevant to growing your business.
  • Promoter: You are the best spokesperson for the business.
  • Relationship-Builder: You have high social awareness and an ability to build relationships that are beneficial for the firm's survival and growth.
  • Risk-Taker: You instinctively know how to manage high-risk situations.

These 10 talents don't address every factor that affects business success. Non-personality variables such as skills, knowledge, and experience along with a host of external factors play a role in determining business success and must be taken into consideration when theorizing on business creation and success. But these 10 talents explain a large part of entrepreneurial success and cannot and should not be ignored. Understanding and acknowledging your inherent talents gives you the best chance at success.

This article is part of a series on the talents of successful entrepreneurs, adapted from the book Entrepreneurial StrengthsFinder (Gallup Press, September 2014). Learn more about the book | Learn more about the assessment

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